Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Commerce and peer review: pay for speed?

Science has the story (and science is the story):
Editor quits journal over pay-for-expedited peer-review offer

"With a tweet yesterday, an editor of Scientific Reports, one of Nature Publishing Group’s (NPG’s) open-access journals, has resigned in a very public protest of NPG’s recent decision to allow authors to pay money to expedite peer review of their submitted papers. “My objections are that it sets up a two-tiered system and instead of the best science being published in a timely fashion it will further shift the balance to well-funded labs and groups,”
"The flap shines a light on a fledgling industry where several companies are now making millions of dollars by privatizing peer review. This niche is being exploited because journal peer review is usually a slow process. After all, it is typically an anonymous, volunteer effort for which scientists receive nothing more than thanks from journal editors and the good feeling of contributing to the scientific community. But for a price at some journals, authors now have the option of fast-tracking their submitted papers through an accelerated peer-review process.

NPG announced earlier this week that it was trying out the peer-review service, called Rubriq, provided by Research Square, a company based in Durham, North Carolina. For a $750 payment to NPG, authors are guaranteed a review within 3 weeks or they get their money back. NPG declined to say how much of that money goes to Research Square.

How does the company perform such quick reviews? “We have about 100 employees with Ph.D.s,” says Research Square’s CEO, Shashi Mudunuri. That small army of editors recruits scientists around the world as reviewers, guiding the papers through the review process. The reviewers get paid $100 for each completed review. The review process itself is also streamlined, using an online “scorecard” instead of the traditional approach of comments, questions, and suggestions. The company also offers services directly to authors, saying it can help them improve papers and find placement with a journal. Business is bustling for Research Square. So far, Mudunuri says, the company has about 1400 active reviewers who have scored 920 papers. The company pulled in $20 million in revenue last year. Mudunuri declined to name the other publishers with which the company has cut deals"

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